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Security for Windows 98 & ME

Posted by Dave
5 Star Support Security Specialist

You may or may not be aware of this, but Microsoft indicates that after July 11, 2006 it will no longer ship updates for, or support Windows 98, Windows 98 SE or Windows ME. There have been a number of blogs and articles lately that indicate users of these operating systems will be at a much higher risk level, and be much more vulnerable and prone to attack. If you are a user of one of these operating systems, you are no doubt a bit worried or panicky as to what to do. I understand this completely, so I am writing this paper in order to help you out. Having Microsoft Windows Updates and security updates no longer available to you does not leave one with a warm, fuzzy feeling.

First, let me say I fully understand users who are still running computers with these operating systems. Windows 98 and 98 SE have to be the most popular operating systems on the planet for quite a few years. Many gamers still feel Windows 98 is the system of choice to this day. The body of software written to run on it is, by way of sheer volume, astounding. There are also many businesses that will be reluctant to change to a newer system because they have programs in use daily that were designed to run on Win 98 and are not compatible with newer operating systems. Still others have Win 98 or ME in a secondary or other computer(s) in use at home, and cannot afford to convert one or all of them to the newer operating systems. I even know some folks who are so happy with Win 98 that they indicate they will never change. In my particular case, I work for a company that still needs Windows 98 SE on 2 machines to run a specialized software package that will not work with any other operating system. Newer versions of the program are available for newer operating systems, but the program is seldom used, so it does not make good business sense to upgrade just to run a seldom used (once monthly) but essential program.

Given these circumstances, I feel the need to help with workable security measures to help keep these operating systems secure. The problem is in finding a good selection of software programs that will both keep you secure, offering good security protection, and that the programs don’t conflict with each other. If you look on the Internet, it becomes quickly evident that most security software currently available is designed to run on Windows 2000 or newer. Even Zone Lab, provider of one of the best firewalls around, indicates its released newer versions (beginning with v 6.5) will no longer support Win 98 or ME.

That’s enough background information. Now we need to get on with the subject of how to keep your older system properly protected. I have come up with a simple plan for you involving five programs that are very good, offer good security, play nicely together, are easy on system resources (going easy on system resources is important because many computers running Win 98 and ME do not have fast processors or tons of memory to work with), and they are all free for personal, non-commercial use. That’s right, free. The providers of the software indicate no foreseeable changes that will cause them to drop support for Windows 98 or ME.

1. Firewall – The best choice I am currently aware of for a good solid firewall for Win 98 or ME is called Jetico Personal Firewall, and it is compatible with all Windows versions from 98 to XP, including NT. It offers solid three-layer protection (low-level, application-level, and user-level). It is available for downloading and installation here:

http://www.jetico.com/index.htm#/jpfirewall.htm

The program is very easy to install and the interface makes for easy set-up and use as well.

2. Anti-Virus – A good Anti-Virus program is an absolute necessity. It should also be able to scan your incoming email and attachments. The solution here is AVG Anti-Virus from Grisoft. The program is very fast, can update itself daily, and features scheduled system scans. It scans both incoming and outgoing email and attachments. It is definitely one of the very best AV programs available anywhere. To get the program, you download from here:

http://free.grisoft.com/doc/1

After installation, launch the AVG Control Center and be sure to set up the automatic update and scan features in the scheduler section. After this initial setup, just let it do its thing and you will be all set.

Grisoft also offers an excellent, free Anti-Spyware program called Ewido, but it only supports Windows 2000 and newer operating systems. Not to worry, we have a plan for that too.

3. Spyware & Adware – (3 programs) if you spend any time at all on the Internet, adware and spyware can be a very big problem. To deal with these threats, there are three programs I can recommend. The first is AdAware SE from Lavasoft. The download is available here:

http://www.lavasoft.de/software/adaware/

Be sure to both update and scan with this program weekly. A tutorial on how to use the program is available here on 5 Star Support at: http://www.5starsupport.com/tutorial/adaware.htm and there is an available users manual on the Lavasoft Website as well.

I also recommend you download and install Spybot Search and Destroy from Safer Networking .Org It is a very powerful program and has an advanced user mode that you can use once you become familiar with the program. Spybot is available for download here:
 
http://www.safer-networking.org/en/download/index.html

You should remember to update the program weekly, and scan weekly as well. Automated scanning on a pre-set schedule is available in the advanced mode, along with many other settings. Just be sure you understand the settings and what they do. I suggest you become very familiar with the program before using the advanced mode.

You can also elect to download and install Tea Timer with the Spybot program. Tea Timer continuously scans the system for any changes in the registry and alerts you if any are found. This is good protection against hidden programs or rootkits that will auto-run in the background when the computer boots up. If you are an intermediate or advanced user with some knowledge of the registry in your system, I highly recommend using the program. If you elect to use it, be sure to also have the icon installed (during program installation) in the tool tray for easy access. Just be sure you know and understanding what you are allowing or denying here, as you will actually be allowing or denying registry changes. One other very important thing will need to be remembered if you elect to use Tea Timer. You have to remember to turn off Tea Timer if you are adding or removing a program. Tea Timer can actually interfere with proper program installation or uninstallation. To turn off Tea Timer, look at the tool tray in the bottom right corner of the screen for the Spybot icon – it is blue in color and has a little padlock in it. Right click the icon, and then choose “Exit Spybot resident”, and you are all set to install or uninstall a program.

There is also a tutorial on using Spybot Search and Destroy here on 5 Star Support located at:

http://www.5starsupport.com/tutorial/spybot.htm

Finally, I also recommend a program called SpywareBlaster from Javacool software. It works with Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers, and is designed to block spyware and adware by restricting access to known sites that install the malware. It adds these known sites to your restricted zone in IE and Firefox. The program can be downloaded here:

http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html

As with the programs above, you should remember to update the program weekly. No scanning is needed as the program does not search for or uninstall malware, but rather blocks the sites that are known for it. There is also a tutorial on using SpywareBlaster here at 5 Star Support located at:

http://www.5starsupport.com/tutorial/spywareblaster.htm

The above five programs should help you stay pretty safe and secure in a Windows 98 or ME environment. You just have to be sure you remember to update AVG daily, and the spyware/adware programs weekly. I also recommend you scan with AVG Anti-Virus daily, and with the others weekly, and you should be all set. I wish you a continued happy and safe computing experience.

Until we meet again here on the 5 Star Support Security Center.

Dave

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